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October 17, 2010


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Katharine Widdows

Thanks for posting this Phil. I also feel that the AGM is far from inclusive. Just the fact that it is held in October means that almost none of those who work in academic libraries can attend, or would even have the time to follow it online if it was streamed or fully tweeted.
The whole thing with proxy votes last year brought home how much CILIP at that point did not make much effort to involve those who could not attend.
Over the last year or so however I think CILIP have got a lot better at communication and at responding to members.
I hope your blog post will act as a catalyst to show CILIP what is still not working, and perhaps it bring issues about the AGM to their attention - I think they will listen - as I say, I think they have got a lot better at responding to members over the last year or so.

Gary Green

I agree Phil. It would have been a great opportunity to include other members who couldn't be there in person, via some kind of virtual meeting process to engage in the discussion. I unfortunately missed Biddy's address too & it's a shame it wasn't recorded.

Brian Kelly

Hi Phil
I could only attend the first day of the ILI 2010 conference - sorry we didn't have the chance to meet.
As you've said in your ILI 2010 report, it is an excellent conference. I have given my thoughts on the conference (see http://ukwebfocus.wordpress.com/2010/10/17/thoughts-on-ili-2010/) and pointed out how many of the delegates were demonstrating their willingness to communicate (which you have highlighted) in using Twitter to share their thoughts with a wider audience. In addition a number of people where using their phones to record video and audio of a number of the talks. The relevant speakers were happy with this as were the conference organisers.

I think it is interesting but unfortunate that conference event organisers are ahead of a professional body in this respect. I hope this will change.

Ivan Chew

Hi Phil, you've raised the bar for reporting library-related AGMs :) I found it insightful and humourous ("Is this the rant Phil? Is it? Is it?" LOL) I'm not a member of my own country's library association (for some other reasons). But I think what you shared here could be required reading. Thanks!


Hi Phil,

At the same time that you were at the CILIP AGM and other people were at Internet Librarian, I was in a meeting about trying to secure the future of our library services where I was told that there wasn't any need to review our information resources and that front line staff don't need enquiry training because: "There's nothing to it really. They've all got access to PCs. If they get any enquiries they can go onto Google." I was told this by one of our most senior librarians and this view was confirmed by three-quarters of my "Leadership Team" - all public librarians.

I am increasingly convinced that there are two professions masquerading under the same name. Your description of the AGM confirms this.


It's unfortunate timing that CILIP is undergoing a lot of self-examination, internal reform, thinking about its role and how it does things when it really should be looking outwards and fighting for the library profession. Ideally it really should have got the former out of way a lot earlier. The self-examination is certainly necessary as Old CILIP is/was not capable of representing the profession even in better times. I'm not sure if it can save itself in time to save everyone else. I won't be relying on it.

Helen Curtis

I attended my first CILIP AGM not long after qualifying and I nearly left the profession afterwards let alone ditch my membership! It was a dull, uninspiring day, which felt much as you have suggested that it was for the select London few. I recall someone standing up and actually berating those not in attendance. It is a shame that I am not surprised to hear that things do not seemed to have changed a great deal, nor that CILIP are failing to take advantage of the technologies that can make the event more dynamic and also help reach the wider audience that they so desperately need to do.


Great blog Phil. I hope you get the VP post as your passion and determination do you and the rest of the profession credit.

Just to prove you're not the only one who can have a rant (!)... here's my two penneth worth...

I went to the CILIP London AGM earlier this year (I don't live in the city any more, so it wasn't an option to attend the actual AGM you report on). It was the most depressing professional event of my life. If my organisation didn't pay my CILIP subs for me, it would have been enough to make me cease my membership (and I'm a recently chartered member!). The event was held at CILIP HQ, above ground where members could tweet. However those of us who did were tutted at and criticised by other people in the audience for causing a disturbance. I heard someone being told to "listen and stop playing with your phone". The group clearly disliked CILIP (there were lots of references to how badly done by they are by CILIP) and spent all evening reminding us that we had to be out by 8pm or the world would end...

My colleague and I found a bunch of negative grumpy people who obsessed over the petty detail. The majority appeared to be retired members, and I wondered where the new professionals were. Despite the Committee emphasising the need to have more people get involved, I doubt anyone felt inspired. I certainly didn't. I got the vibe that anyone who sought to inject a bit of enthusiasm and passion was going to be worn down by the gloom of the others. David Nicholas from UCL was the speaker. I've never seen anyone so keen to run away afterwards...

My colleague and I reflected on it the day after, and both swore we'd never attend another. Such a shame - it could have been positive, but it was anything but.

Girl in the Moon

Thanks for this post, Phil. I'd thought about going along to the AGM, as I've been trying recently to be more positive about CILIP by attending events and making the most, rather than sitting on the sidelines and hoping that I could magically feel involved like that. The fact it was titled 'Members' Day' also encouraged me. But I didn't in fact go, because the programme for the day didn't seem to offer that much beyond the AGM meeting, and I rather feared that it would as you described.

I'm very encouraged by your commitment, if elected, to make future AGMs more accessible to those unable to be physically present. But as I haven't yet decided for whom I shall vote in the elections, I've posted over on the e-hustings (at http://communities.cilip.org.uk/forums/t/13654.aspx) asking your VP opponent for her opinions on this subject. So CILIP members reading this post may be interested to keep their eyes on that discussion, too, if they aren't already!

Martin Morris

I'm both relieved and depressed to discover that I'm not alone. I went to the CILIP AGM last year because I'd really enjoyed Umbrella and thought I'd see how I might get further involved. And yes, it was definitely one of the most depressing things I've ever been to - to the extent that I was tempted to post a similar rant but honestly didn't think it was worth it. It utterly sucked, not only did I feel unwelcome, but strongly sensed that I had come to watch a clique at work.

To give an example: one thing I particularly remember is the vote on the membership fees for last year. Now, I personally don't happen to agree with what I feel is a rather regressive membership fee structure. I can accept that in a democratic vote I may be in a minority and can also accept that there may be reasons for having the structure that CILIP has that haven't occurred to me. What really surprised me however, was being the ONLY person attending the AGM out of all those present who voted against it - I suggest that's the mark of an organisation which hasn't worked out how to hold its AGMs at a time and place which are rather more conclusive as I know for a fact that I wasn't alone in my views. Debate was limited, pedantic, and it was totally and utterly clear that the vote was no more than an irritating formality, rather than a chance for debate and open-minded discussion. I'm really sorry that this year was much the same.

The thing is that since then I've met a lot of CILIP people, attended meetings of the CDG and International Group, and was also fortunate enough to be given a grant by CILIP to attend IFLA this year, so I've seen for myself that there are lots of people in CILIP who really care about the profession and are very clued-up about how best to advocate and draw in new talent. It just seems to me that there hasn't yet been a sufficient critical mass of those people at a high enough level to turn CILIP into the fighting organisation it desperately needs to be. Enough of navel-gazing discussions about 'Our Professional Future' and the like. Budgets are about to be slashed, very many CILIP members are shortly going to be made redundant for very very wrong reasons and there just isn't a strong enough voice to stand up for us. Advocacy is the ONLY thing that matters for the foreseeable future.

OK, rant over!

Gaz Johnson

Wow. Thought I'd missed out on the virtual debate as i was stuck in meetings all Friday afternoon (and then a little surprised to discover it was still going on when I got out!)I've never (yet) made it to a CILIP AGM and frankly going on the comments here can't say that I'd feel it worth my while. AGMs for SIGs I've been to over the years have been a mixed bag, but have generally been a great celebration of the groups works - rather than getting bogged down my pointless sounding minutae. I can get that at any the local Parish Council meeting.


AGMs are often awful by the nature of the formalities they tend to need.

The basement room badly needs to be changed - no wifi and no live stream is a major fail and one that members have been pointing out for several years now. SOAS actually tweeted to say there was wifi but only if you had some sort of student membership - so no wifi in practical terms.

The issue of mostly retirees and not enough live professionals is a major one. Perhaps the key to this is to move the AGM to an event where lots of live professionals are? Link it to a conference and there may be a better chance of their being wifi and streaming available. It is not as though there are hundreds of retirees turning up!

I wonder if we need to have an AGM in this style at all? Why not make Members day just that? A chance to celebrate those who have contributed, an opportunity for networking and a chance to hear about interesting developments across the profession. Realistically AGM is not the place to have debates about sub rates and so on. These things are nearly always going to be sorted in advance (and with the input of members elected to represent others) so why pretend their is debate?

Nigel Macartney

Very good blog, Phil. I think a growing number of current CILIP councillors also believe we must ring the changes for the AGM and I write as the Chair of Council! The present format has served its purpose but now we need to reflect the wishes of the membership as expressed widely in the "new media" and Defining Our Professional Future. However, we do need the AGM for all sorts of reasons (legal as well as others) and ....if we didn't hold it there would be a great deal more than mild criticism! However, there is now a chance for a re-think on how more can participate in what can be a highly informed and democratic organisation. I shall be raising this topic at the next meeting of Council and encouraging its members to read this blog and the comments. Nigel Macartney

Penny Simmonds

Perhaps the awards and celebration of members achievemnts could be linked to a conference e.g Umbrella ? This might attract some media attention too. These fantastic achievements deserve promotion to the wider world which hopefully could help to raise the profile of the profession.

Would more people be able to attend the AGM if it was held in the evening perhaps and live streamed to those who couldn't?

Penny ( CILIP Training and Development)

Diana Nutting

Yes the AGM is boring - and I've been to a few. I'm no longer on Council and didn't go to this year's members' day, so I didn't realise that the morning sessions of exhibitions and free presenations were no longer happening. If I had been on Council I'd have fought tooth and nail to keep them. They were great.

As for SOAS and the afternoon format, it seems to me that that is all part of CILIP's unfortunate "academic" culture, which also pervaded Council in my time where there were interminable discussions on things which would be decided in minutes in a business environment.

And yes, CILIP is cliquy. The trouble is that people who are in a clique don't always realise the impression they are giving, and also find it difficult to look beyond the clique. I shall continue to rant on about this, as I did on Council till it gets through. Until CILIP engages with people who do information jobs, including knowledge managment, in the private sector, membership will continue to decline, because that's where the growth is, that's where the energy is, and that's where organisations like SLA and the British Computer Society are gaining members because CILIP likes its comfort zone.

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